Role of Diet & Cocoa flavanols in Cognitive aging
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A clinical trial has shown that in older people, a diet supplemented with cocoa flavanols– naturally occurring compounds found in cocoa beans—may improve performance on a specific memory task.

With the world's population aging, age-related memory decline is an impending cognitive epidemic. Assessing the impact of diet on cognitive aging, researchers conducted a controlled, randomized, parallel-arm dietary intervention with 211 healthy adults investigating effects of either a placebo or 260, 510, and 770 mg/day of cocoa flavanols for 12-weeks followed by an 8-week washout.

The primary outcome was a newly-developed object-recognition task localized to the hippocampus’ dentate gyrus. Secondary outcomes included a hippocampal-dependent list-learning task and a prefrontal cortex-dependent list-sorting task. The alternative Healthy Eating Index and a biomarker of flavanol intake (gVLM) were measured. In an MRI substudy, hippocampal cerebral blood volume was mapped.

--Object-recognition and list-sorting performance did not correlate with baseline diet quality and did not improve after flavanol intake.

--However, the hippocampal-dependent list-learning performance was directly associated with baseline diet quality and improved after flavanol intake, particularly in participants in the bottom tertile of baseline diet quality.

--In the imaging substudy, a region-of-interest analysis was negative but a voxel-based-analysis suggested that dietary flavanols target the dentate gyrus.

In particular, diet in general, and dietary flavanols in particular, may be associated with a memory function of the aging hippocampus and normal cognitive decline.

Scientific Reports